You may have spotted our big pink guest on Lamb Street… Kitchenette Karts are a nonprofit food truck and programme helping London’s young and unemployed into street food jobs and micro-enterprise and they’re here in Spitalfields Market serving lunch to our hungry visitors. We caught up with director, Jake Slater, to find out a little bit more about the project and the work he does.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about Kitchenette Karts and the work you do?
Backed by the Mayor of London, Kitchenette Karts is a social enterprise food truck that trades at markets and events around London while training young & unemployed people to find happy and fulfilling careers in food or set up their own food businesses.
2. What inspired you to start the Kitchenette Kart?
Working in a street food kitchen is an incredible real-world training environment, and it’s something that anyone can jump into, regardless of whether they are starting with any skills or experience. Most of the Trainees that we work with didn’t enjoy school, their introduction to the world of work has often been disappointing and, for many of them, the programmes that they’ve been on to help them find work haven’t engaged them either.
Over the course of a day working on a food truck you learn so many valuable skills that are transferable: the daily and weekly logistics of working with suppliers and getting food and equipment from A to B; developing a menu that’s seasonal, popular, cost-effective and efficient with ingredients; preparation and cooking food using specialist equipment; working with customers, handling money and cashing up; setting up at the start of the day and packing down at the end. As part of a small street food team (usually two or three people), you’re also working very closely with a manager, so there are lots of opportunities for learning and working closely together.
3. How do you come up with the menus?
We’ve got a revolving menu of sandwiches inspired by the diverse culinary communities of the East End, where we are proudly based. Trainees that come through our programmes get the chance to get involved with recipe-development, so you can sometimes find Trainee sandwiches on our menu. For Spitalfields we’re serving up:
Vietnamese “Ca Ri Ga” Curried Coconut Chicken Sub, with Pickled Vegetables, Sriracha and Fresh Herbs
Pakistani Nihari-Spiced Cauliflower Sub, with Salted Lemon Yoghurt, Crispy Onions, Herbs and Tamarind
Turkish Smashed-Adana Kebab Sub, with Sumac, Red Onion and Parsley Salad, Yoghurt, Charred Peppers and Urfa Chilli Butter
4. In which ways does the Kart help young Londoners?
First, we recruit Trainees from local charities and organisations like The Prince’s Trust, colleges and job centres. Then, we train them up in our truck and get them their Level 2 Food Hygiene & Safety Qualification. Next, they get work experience and mentorship from some of London’s best food businesses including Ottolenghi, St. John, Monty’s Deli and Yum Bun. Last, we finish with an intensive support phase where we find our Trainees secure, long-term employment in the industry or support them to set up their own food businesses with a further ‘incubator’ programme. On the incubator, Trainees get to try out their own street food ideas in London markets, get feedback from top chef mentors and put together business plans.
5. What has been the most rewarding moment of working on the Kart?
There have been a few, but it would have to be at the end of the Graduation Party for our recent group of Trainees at Dalston Roof Park. It felt like the last evening of the summer, and 100 people came including our Trainees’ friends and family and loads of our supporters. Our Trainees had designed the number one dish on the menu, and they ran the kitchen and service all night for 100 people with the rest of our team. After we’d finished cleaning up and packing down at the end of the night, each of them was buzzing with the feeling of having entertained and fed 100 happy people – a really rewarding moment for us!
6. If somebody wanted to get involved with the work you do, how might they be able to help?
We’re always looking for help in the work that we do! That might be volunteering your time as a mentor, offering food work experience placements for our Trainees, booking us to cater a party, or connecting us with people that might be interested in funding our programmes to help London’s young & unemployed become the next generation of street food chefs and entrepreneurs.